Carleton mourns 3 students after deadly crash

Family and friends are mourning the loss of three Carleton University students who died Wednesday morning after an SUV collided with a transit bus in Ottawa's south end.

Family and friends are mourning the loss of three Carleton University students who died Wednesday morning after an SUV collided with a transit bus in Ottawa's south end.

Vanessa Crawford, 19, grew up in Petrolia with her best friend, Brianne Deschamps, said Deschamps's father. ((In Loving Memory of Vanessa Crawford Facebook group))

Two other people were injured when the 1992 Toyota 4Runner SUV carrying five people was struck by an OC Transpo bus near Riverside Drive and Heron Road around 1:50 a.m., police said.

The man driving the bus and his lone passenger were not injured, the Ottawa Paramedic Service said.

As of 2 p.m., Ottawa police said they have identified the young man driving the SUV and two female passengers who died in the crash, but would not release the information at the families' request.

Friends and family identified the dead as Carleton University students Mark MacDonald, 20, Brianne Deschamps, 19, and Vanessa Crawford, 19.

Steven Deschamps, father of Brianne Deschamps, said the two young women were best friends and roommates who grew up together in the southwestern Ontario town of Petrolia.

He said his daughter dreamed of becoming a music teacher.

"She just loved life and she just loved being around people," he said.

The Ministry of Transporation has confirmed that the SUV involved in the crash is registered to MacDonald.

Ottawa Paramedic Service team leader Stéphane Gareau said the driver's side of the SUV 'was encroached inside the cab of the vehicle by a good two to three feet.' (CBC)

As of 10 a.m., one young man from the SUV remained in hospital in critical but stable condition with head injuries, while a woman with back injuries had been released, police said.

Friends identified the young man as electrical engineering student Ben Gardiner, 20.

Emily Jackson, one of several friends gathered at the hospital, said the injured passengers also went to Carleton.

Carleton University president Samy Mahmoud issued a brief statement Wednesday calling the news of the crash "devastating." He extended his condolences to the families of the dead students and said the university's flags were lowered to half-mast in their memory. He added that he prays for the recovery of the two injured.

Carleton University Students' Association president Shelley Melanson offered her condolences also.

Police said the bus was travelling north on Riverside Drive when it collided with the SUV heading westbound on Heron Road.

The bus driver told investigators that he had a green light, Const. Mike Herasimenko of the Ottawa police collision investigation unit said Wednesday morning.

"But there are no independent witnesses at this time so it's still under investigation," he said.

Intersection open again

The intersection reopened by late morning, but police were still examining evidence such as traffic camera footage. They said alcohol may have been a factor. Herasimenko said the two vehicles involved were to be checked for mechanical problems.

The wreckage of the SUV — a crumpled frame with smashed windows and blown tires — was loaded onto a flatbed truck.

Ottawa Paramedic Service team leader Stéphane Gareau said the driver's side of the truck "was encroached inside the cab of the vehicle by a good two to three feet."

The bus was about 20 metres away, down an embankment, where it came to a stop after hitting and dislodging a traffic light, CBC reporter Karina Roman said from the scene.

According to a City of Ottawa road safety report, there were 39 collisions at Riverside and Heron in 2006 — more than at any other intersection in the city.